Cold and flu season is coming early this year

Published 10:21 am Thursday, September 18, 2014

It’s that time of year: Cold and flu season is back, and it may hit a bit early this time.

Influenza vaccines are now available at several different clinics or pharmacies in Austin.

“A lot of us think we’re strong enough to fight off the flu; we also can be carriers,” Pharmacist Chris Meyer of Medicap Pharmacy in Austin said.

The Department of Health has recommended giving the shot early this year, because there could be an early strain coming.

Although in the past there was worry the vaccine wouldn’t last through the season if people received it early, Dee Anderson, a certified nurse practitioner and clinic manager for Smart Clinic, said they aren’t worried anymore.

“They’re pretty comfortable with the fact that it will be valid, if you will, all through the season,” she said. “We’re just trying to keep people as healthy as we can.”

Although some have reservations about the flu vaccine, health providers encourage people to think about not only themselves but others.

“A simple flu shot can keep others from getting sick,” Meyer said.

Flu is particularly risky for seniors, children, pregnant women and people of any age with asthma, heart disease and other chronic diseases.

Primary Care Nurse Manager at Mayo Clinic Health System in Austin Brenda Haynes encouraged people to think about their families.

“If you don’t feel that you’re at risk for this disease, I would ask you to think about your loved ones, and if they’re at risk, would you want to protect them as well,” Haynes said. “The influenza vaccine is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of influenza in communities.”

Despite the reservations, health care providers have seen an increase in people who received the vaccine. Many employers encourage employees to get the vaccine in attempts to keep up health and productivity in the workplace.

Anderson said employers have a reason to want to avoid the flu.

“When you get the flu, you’re knocked out for a number of days, and that’s an economic factor for a lot of employers too, so it impacts people in a lot of areas,” Anderson said.

Haynes added that they have seen an increase as well, since the CDC made changes to their recommendations.

“Vaccines always work better if a higher percentage of the community is vaccinated,” she said.

Many people decide not to get the vaccine because they believe it will cause them to get the flu, but Haynes said that simply is not true.

“The influenza vaccine does not cause a clinical infection, but some patients can experience side effects of the vaccine,” Haynes said.

The side effects can make patients feel achy or sore or slightly ill, but she said there is only a small percentage of patients who experience the effects, and they dissipate fairly quick. Haynes encouraged people to reach out to their doctor about questions concerning the flu vaccine.

Anderson said most people decide whether to get it due to personal preference. People may be hesitant to get it if they have never received the vaccine before. Some people may be allergic to eggs, but can avoid the issue through another version of the vaccine.

“I think it’s something that’s fine for everyone,” Anderson said. “I think for a lot of people it’s personal preference.”

There are several different types of vaccines available, including the regular shot; the nasal spray; an egg-free shot for those allergic to eggs; a high-dose shot just for those 65 and older; a tiny-needle shot for the squeamish; and the quadrivalent shot that protects against four strains of the virus. Although prices can range from $25 to $60, many insurance companies cover much of or all the cost of the vaccine. There are also programs in place to help cover costs, such as the Minnesota Vaccines for Children program, which helps children under 18.

“Definitely an increase in the vaccine and definitely a decrease in people who get the flu,” Meyer said.

Jason Schoonover contributed to this report.

Available Flu Shots

Mayo Clinic Health System-Austin
Appointments are required.
Available: Now through into next year, around June last year.
Cost: Prices range from $30 to $46.
Time: Sept. 24— 5:30-7 p.m.
Oct. 1— 5:30-7 p.m.
Oct. 4— 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
Oct. 8— 5:30-7 p.m.
Oct. 11– 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
Oct. 15—5:30-7 p.m.
Place: Mayo Clinic Health System- Austin
Type: Injectable for ages 6 months to 35 months
Injectable for ages 3 and older.
Nasal Mist Vaccine for ages 2 to 49 years.
High Dose Injectable for ages 65 and higher.
Oct. 9 – Mayo Clinic Health System in Adams from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Appointments are required, please call 507-582-3547.
Oct. 14 – Mayo Clinic Health System in LeRoy from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Appointments are required, please call 507-324-5305.
*Mayo clinic is recommending the nasal mist as the preferred vaccine for ages 2 through 18, and the high dose is the preferred vaccine for 65+.

Walgreens
Available: Currently through the flu season, until around March or April
Age: 10 years of age and up.
Cost: Varies from $34.99 through $57.99
Time: Available pharmacy hours, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.
Place: Walgreen’s pharmacy department at the store.
Type: standard shot: $34.99
High Dose for 65 up: $57.99, Medicare can be billed.
Flu Mist/ Nasal Spray: $39.99
Fluarix Quadrivalent/ Four Strains: 39.99

Quick Care
Available: Will be available within a week or two and until they run out of vaccine.
Age: Ages 6 and up, they do not vaccinate infants.
Cost: $25 per shot.
Time: Available during regular business hours.
Place: The Quick Care business building at the Target Strip Mall.
Type: The standard two or three-strain vaccine, do not offer the four-strain.

Medicap
Available: Available now through around March.
Age: 10 years and older.
Time: During business hours Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday call for appointment.
Place: Medicap building.
Type: Trivalent: $40

Smart Clinic, Sterling Drugstore
Available: Now until vaccine runs out, mid November is a guess.
Age: Shot: 4-64, Mist: 2-49
Time: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Place: Smart Clinic building.
Type: Flu Mist Quadrivalent: $40
Fluvirin: $32